Quick and easy Christmas cranberry cake recipe with cake mix, homemade with simple ingredients. This frosted layer dessert is loaded with cream cheese frosting, orange zest, fresh cranberries, candied nuts and shredded coconut.
December is all about enjoying seasonal treats like these Fresh Cranberry Cookies and Homemade Eggnog. I have been making this cake below and my Eggnog Cheesecake every Christmas for many years now. This dessert is soft, moist, rich with hints of orange flavor, subtle fruity tartness from cranberries and a crunch from candied nuts. It's an incredible cake to serve at parties and just as good as my Easy Gingerbread Recipe (Gingerbread Cake).
Table of contents
Key ingredients for best cranberry orange cake
- Eggs- Be sure they are large and at room temperature.
- Milk- Using whole will give the best flavor and texture.
- Oil- You can use vegetable or canola oil.
- Orange zest- Brings out a delectable citrus flavor.
- Cake mix- You can use any brand as long as it is a white or yellow mix.
- Flour- This is used to coat the cranberries to prevent them from sinking to the bottom.
- Fresh cranberries- Please do not use frozen or dried in this recipe.
- Cream cheese frosting- This is the best flavor pairing in my opinion but you can also try other icing flavors.
- Candied nuts- These, alone, make great treats, but used as a topping gives a beautiful appearance and a light crunch in each bite.
- Edible pearls- I used gold and silver for this specific look.
- Shredded coconut- I prefer to use unsweetened so the dessert doesn't become too sweet.
- Mini chocolate chips- This is an optional decoration.
- Use jam or marmalade- I used cream cheese frosting but you can also spread cranberry jam or even orange jam or marmalade between the layers.
- Make a taller cake- By adding more cake layers.
- Take it up a notch- By decorating it with Sugared Cranberries (Candied Cranberries).
- Cranberry orange flavor- I added a little orange zest to give it a boost of citrus flavor. You can also add an additional 1 teaspoon orange extract to really enhance that flavor.
- Upside down cake- Make this Pineapple Upside Down Cake. However, replace cherries with fresh cranberries.
- White chocolate addition- Stir in some mini white chocolate chips in the batter or you can use white chocolate ganache frosting. Use my Chocolate Ganache Frosting recipe but substitute the semi-sweet chocolate chips with white chocolate.
- Instead of orange zest- You can use lemon or lime zest for another flavor profile.
- Coffee cake- Add a crumble topping on top of the batter before baking.
- Pound cake- Make this Sour Cream Pound Cake. However, stir in ¾ cup fresh cranberries in the batter. Don't forget to coat them in flour first.
How to make easy Christmas cranberry cake recipe with cake mix?
- Mix wet ingredients- This includes eggs, milk, water, oil, and orange zest.
- Add cake mix- And mix until just combined.
- Fully coat cranberries- In flour.
- Fold them- In cake batter.
- Pour batter- Into 2 prepared cake pans.
- Bake- Until an inserted toothpick in the center comes out clean.
- Allow cakes to cool completely- Until room temperature.
- Assemble- Place one cake on serving dish, spread frosting on top, place other cake on top, ice entire cake, covered in shredded coconut.
- Decorate- With fresh cranberries, candied nuts, mini chocolate chips, edible pearls.
Tips and techniques
All ingredients must be at room temperature- So that they blend together smoothly and evenly.
Make this for a larger crowd- Recipe can easily be doubled to make 4 cakes.
Don't use frozen cranberries- Because they release a lot of water during baking and can make the final results soggy.
Don't use dried cranberries- Fresh cranberries taste so much better and they are juicier. They also look better and more festive and bright red for the holiday season.
Make sure the cakes cool completely- Before icing them to prevent icing from melting.
It doesn't matter what brand of cake mix you use- Just make sure you are using a yellow cake mix or a white cake mix because that created the best overall flavor. Personally, I think the white cake mix looks the best here. It reminds me of snow and Winter.
Cranberries must be coated in a little bit of flour- To prevent them from sinking to the bottom. To learn more about this technique, check out this post on How to Prevent Chocolate Chips From Sinking.
Don't use this recipe to make bundt cake- Bundt cakes are usually firm, which makes it easier to remove them from the pan. However, this batter makes a soft and moist cake, which will stick to the bundt pan and won't release easily. If you are looking for a good bundt cake recipe, try my Chocolate Bundt Cake or this Lemon Bundt Cake instead.
Simply coat them in flour first and then gently fold them into the batter. Then, bake.
No, this recipe requires the use of fresh ones because the dried ones adds a chewy texture that's not very pleasant in cakes.
No, that's not necessary at all. Just wash and pat them dry and you are good to go.
- Make ahead- The frosting and cake can be made 2 days in advance and stored in a sealed container in the fridge. When you are ready, assemble and decorate per directions below.
- Room temperature- I wouldn't leave out for more than 2-3 hours.
- Refrigerate- Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
- Freeze- Frosting and cake can be sealed and stored separately for up to 1 month. Then simply thaw, assemble, and decorate per instruction below.
More doctored cake mix recipes
- Pumpkin Donuts
- Easy Pumpkin Cake
- Easy Apple Cake
- Cake Mix Cookie Bars
- Chocolate Cake Mix Cookies
- Cake Mix Chocolate M&M Cookies
- Easy Cake Mix Brownies
- Easy Gingerbread Cookies
- Champagne Cupcakes
Easy Christmas Cranberry Cake (With Cake Mix)
- In a deep bowl, add eggs, milk, water, oil, orange zest and mix until smooth.
- Add cake mix and mix until just combined.
- In a separate bowl, add flour and cranberries. Mix them with a spoon until the cranberries and fully coated.
- Dump these "floured cranberries" into your cake batter. Gently fold them into your cake mixture with a wooden spoon.
- Pour this batter into two floured/greased round cake pans (Dimensions: 8x2).
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted toothpick in the center comes out clean.
- Allow these cakes to cool completely.
- Place one cake on a cake stand. Spread frosting on top. Place the other cake on top of the frosting and press gently to stick everything together.
- Ice the entire cake in frosting and cover it in shredded coconut.
- Top it off with some fresh cranberries, candied nuts, mini chocolate chips (optional), gold and silver edible pearls.
- Slice and enjoy!
- All ingredients must be at room temperature.
- Frozen cranberries and dried cranberries cannot be used.
- Allow cakes to cool completely before icing them.
- Use lemon zest instead of orange if you like that flavor profile.
- Read additional tips and variations above.
- Leftovers can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days.